Crew Simulates Isolated Colony In Volcano Dome

Brian Ramos spent eight months in isolation to simulate life in an outpost on Mars, sharing a small habitat with five other people and without the internet. But he would go right back inside for some more quality time.

“I really felt I could have stayed in there, I kind of wanted to stay in there,” he told International Business Times this week, shortly after exiting the Martian simulation at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano. “I would absolutely go [back] in with my same crew, without question.”

Ramos, who is trained in biomedical and electrical engineering, was part of the latest in a string of isolation experiments that are geared toward preparing NASA for long-term space travel. The civilians in the habitat of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, also known as HI-SEAS, work together on research projects and on household tasks like making dinner under conditions as close to being on the Martian surface as possible, complete with an airlock the team has to use to leave the habitat and venture onto the reddish slope of Mauna Loa. The isolation experiments look into how people work together in these situations and could provide information for NASA on what kinds of personalities are suitable for long space journeys and how they can keep the peace between crewmates once the space agency starts sending people to Mars.

“The University of Hawaii is going to be giving NASA essential information about how you pick individual astronauts and how you put them together in a crew, but also how you support them over these long-duration missions,” HI-SEAS principal investigator Kim Binsted said in a video from the university, another partner on the isolation experiment.

The team emerged from their habitat on Sept. 17.

Six people spent eight months in isolation in a habitat at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano to simulate a mission to Mars for NASA. Photo: University of Hawaii

During the past eight months, Ramos said, he and his team focused on communicating and being open with one another — a strategy that works on Earth as well as it would work on Mars.

“Any time you put six people in a closed environment you’re gonna have disagreements,” he told IBT. “We were really good about bringing up issues as they came up.”

The conditions of the experiment pushed the team together because the habitat was small and contact with the outside world was far away. Ramos explained that to simulate what it would be like for astronauts on Mars to…

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